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The Rook Audio Download – Unabridged

4.3 out of 5 stars 167 customer reviews

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Format: Hardcover
When I first read about the 'Big Idea' at the centre of this book on John Scalzi's blog 'Whatever', I was intrigued. Like many others, I suspect, I've sometimes felt like a spectator of my own life, and the idea of waking up with no knowledge of the past and having to pretend to be me without knowing what's going on struck a chord. Add to that the main character's involvement in a world of espionage, strange powers and hideous monsters, and I was hooked.

This is the most enjoyable, most riveting supernatural thriller I've read this side of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, and it has similar elements: a likable, vulnerable hero/heroine, up against immense threats, triumphing through guile and determination; a realistic backdrop that contrasts wonderfully with the fantastical events; and throughout a touch of ironic and occasionally macabre humour.

Mr O'Malley populates his world with people who I found myself invested in, both the sympathetic, who I so desperately wanted to survive and triumph, and the villainous, whose defeats were so satisfying. He manages to make the reader care about what happens even to minor characters.

I gather the author is working on a sequel and I, for one, look forward to re-immersing myself in his troubling but compelling world, and re-acquainting myself with those who survived; and perhaps those that didn't...
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I picked this book up on the strength of the reviews here, and wasn't disappointed, especially for a first novel. The prose is strong and the story well-plotted and paced. O'Malley has a talent for the slightly absurd, and I laughed at the whimsy in some of the throwaway descriptions of powers and situations, and particularly the 'duck incident' towards the end of the book.

While I didn't find the infrequent Americanisms as jarring as other reviewers, the book does demand comparison with Ben Aaronovich's Rivers of London series, both of which feature secret paranormal agencies based in London/UK. Aaronovich clearly has a much better grasp of the London setting, which O'Malley could do well to try and emulate. However Rook possibly just has the edge in terms of humo(u)r and plotting

There were some credulity-stretching moments in the plot - the ease and speed with which the (new) heroine managed to settle into a C-level role in an international secret service with almost nobody noticing, and the apparent lack of competence from some of the leaders of said service. However a really strong debut, with plenty of scope and interesting secondary characters to develop for future novels
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I wanted to love this book, I really really did. The world and the concept were cool, but in the end the execution let it down massively.

So the author called his protagonist Myfanwy. I initially really liked that, it's not a name you see used often. But then the author opens by having the character explain that she pronounces it like Tiffany but with an M at the start. WHY?! You take this this beautiful, traditional Welsh name and just throw it away? I think most Brits could pronounce it close to correctly if not completely correctly and as you already went to the effort of telling the reader how to pronounce it, why didn't you tell them to pronounce it the traditional way? There was absolutely no reason for the alternative pronunciation throughout the rest of the book and so I stubbornly pronounced it traditionally in my head from start to finish.

Oh, and it was even more annoying when the author illustrated another character "wrongly" using the traditional pronunciation at one point in the story. ARGH, make it stop!

Related to the character naming issue, was her surname and the use of it throughout the story. Obviously with an amnesia plot like this, the current timeline version of Myfanwy needs a way to refer to past Myfanwy without the reader getting confused. The way the author achieved this was by having current-M refer to past-M by her surname. My first problem with this approach is that in my experience, women don't usually refer to closed personal friends/acquaintances by their surnames. That's pretty much reserved for referring to public schoolboys.

It was further problematic because Myfanwy's surname is Thomas, so current-M kept referring to her past self as "Thomas" which is quite clearly a male name and was horrible jarring.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Daniel O'Malley has shot straight into my 'must-buy' list of authors with this incredible book.

Myfanwy isn't Myfanwy any more. She's woken up in a field surrounded by bodies, with two black eyes, a potential new name and a letter in her pocket explaining that she's in big trouble. Lucky for us. The first part of the book suffers a little from info dump - there are loads of letters from M1 explaining how her life worked before it fell apart - but please don't let that put you off. Once the action kicks in there's no let up.

Given the glut of supernatural books over the past few years, it says a lot for the author's skill that the world created feels fresh and is engrossing. There's a version of how one type of predator (it's so hard to talk about this without giving the character away) is created that I can't recall having read before.

Myfanwy is a great invention. She proves the old adage that it's always the quiet ones you have to watch. M1 is dismissed by her colleagues as a mousy administrator, so I loved seeing M2 roar into life and shake them up. O'Malley didn't leave M1 as a single note character either. She had a depth and strength that led her on adventures her detractors would never have thought her capable of. M1's stoicism in the face of her own impending destruction was heartbreaking, and her determination to exercise a measure of control over the aftermath was inspiring. The other characters are wonderful (even when they're horrible). My heart was in my mouth over the fate of a few of my favourites near the end.

The thing I liked best of all was the way humour and action were combined so that each enhanced rather than detracted from the other. I couldn't bear to put the book down until it was finished, and now it's over I wish I'd made it last longer. I really hope there's a sequel in the pipeline, and that Daniel O'Malley is a fast writer.
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